We’ve heard Warren Buffett continue to repeat an important phrase, “what the wise man does in the beginning, the fool does in the end.” This begs the question, when does a foregone conclusion become what we call “a well-known fact”?
The stock market is discounting an accelerating rate of technological change in our society. A mad dash by investors is anticipating a world organized like “The Jetsons” cartoon from my childhood. We thought it would be useful to look back at other points in time where great technological change was anticipated and see how that worked out for S&P 500 Index investors.
A Forbes article of July 1974 profiled John Templeton and highlighted some of the wisdom he implemented in his investment process. The article touched on his discipline of consistently praying to God “for wisdom and clear thinking” at the start of each directors meeting for the Templeton Growth Fund.
As we look out into the second half of 2017, it is important to understand that we believe the U.S. stock market has tried to “kill” investor enthusiasm. We would argue this enhances the position of the value-oriented and long-duration equity manager in a way that that doesn’t kill us and makes us “stronger.”
Walmart (WMT) recently made it clear to vendors that they should “get off” Amazon’s Cloud. This was one of two announcements which speak to the competitive landscape of business in the U.S. The other announcement came earlier when Amazon (AMZN) disclosed an agreement to buy Whole Foods (WFM) for $42 per share in cash.
During the most-recent Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Meeting, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger reiterated a point during the question and answer portion that has stuck with us. We feel compelled to share what we learned.
At the end of my freshman year in college (1977), my brother-in-law’s twin brother called me to ask if I wanted to go to the sixth game of the NBA Finals in Portland. I was a huge Trailblazer fan and was thrilled to sit in the top row of Memorial Coliseum, which held 12,665 fans. Not only was it an unbelievable experience for a lifelong fan (the Blazer’s won), but it was even more powerful because professional basketball was “the only game in town.” No other major professional sport (football, basketball, baseball) existed in Portland in 1977 and there is only one in town today.
We thought it would be very helpful to review Warren Buffett’s argument in 19991, the last time there was very high expectations attached to technology stocks and to the overall level of common stock prices. We will reference Buffett’s quotes by the year he said them. The sections labeled 2017 offer our current observations on the markets and thoughts from respected experts.
Each year we like to drill down on the wisdom imparted by Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting. This year, we thought there were four key takeaways we can consider in running our portfolio of common stocks at Smead Capital Management.
As many of you know, we admire Warren Buffett and his “sidekick,” Charlie Munger. They seek out quality businesses at bargain prices and have a stunning record of success. Both personally and with stock ownership, they are notorious tightwads with their own money and the money of our common stock holding, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B).